Nanogenerator Intros New Energy Unit - The Pinch
The first commercially viable nanogenerator, a flexible chip that can produce energy from body movements, has been created, according to lead scientist Zhong Lin Wang, Ph.D.
"This development represents a milestone toward producing portable electronics that can be powered by body movements without the use of batteries or electrical outlets," said lead scientist Zhong Lin Wang, Ph.D. "Our nanogenerators are poised to change lives in the future. Their potential is only limited by one's imagination."
The latest improvements have resulted in a nanogenerator powerful enough to drive commercial liquid-crystal displays, light-emitting diodes and laser diodes. By storing the generated charges using a capacitor, the output power is capable to periodically drive a sensor and transmit the signal wirelessly.
"If we can sustain the rate of improvement, the nanogenerator may find a broad range of other applications that require more power," he added. Wang cited, for example, personal electronic devices powered by footsteps activating nanogenerators inside the sole of a shoe; implanted insulin pumps powered by a heart beat; and environmental sensors powered by nanogenerators flapping in the breeze.
The key to the technology is zinc oxide (ZnO) nanowires. ZnO nanowires are piezoelectric — they can generate an electric current when strained or flexed. That movement can be virtually any body movement, such as walking, a heartbeat, or blood flowing through the body. The nanowires can also generate electricity in response to wind, rolling tires, or many other kinds of movement.
The diameter of a ZnO nanowire is so small that 500 of the wires can fit inside the width of a single human hair. Wang's group found a way to capture and combine the electrical charges from millions of the nanoscale zinc oxide wires. They also developed an efficient way to deposit the nanowires onto flexible polymer chips, each about a quarter the size of a postage stamp. Five nanogenerators stacked together produce about 1 micro Ampere output current at 3 volts — about the same voltage generated by two regular AA batteries (about 1.5 volts each).
This is just what you want in your stillsuit, the key piece of Fremen equipment that allows human beings to survive on Dune. According to Frank Herbert, a stillsuit is powered by "motions of the body".
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